by Hannah Giles with thanks to https://www.citytosea.org.uk/ for first publication
WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF GLOBAL CLIMATE BREAKDOWN, AND PLASTIC PRODUCTION IS A MAJOR AND GROWING PART OF THE CRISIS.
In 2019, the production of plastics (aka the plastics industry) will add more than 850 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere – the equivalent of 189 coal-fired power plants! By 2050, the accumulation of these gases will account for up to 13% of the total remaining carbon budget. (That’s the amount of extra carbon the planet can tolerate before tipping global warming over 1.5 degrees – the danger line.)
Plastic is one of the most greenhouse gas intensive industries in the manufacturing sector – and the fastest growing. Greenhouse gas emissions from plastic are and accelerating climate breakdown, threatening our ability to maintain a survivable climate.
Our planet cannot afford plastics business as usual. We have to turn the tide.
THE COST OF A PLASTIC PLANET
Nearly every piece of plastic that exists in the world originated as a fossil fuel. And GHGs are emitted at every stage of the plastics lifecycle, from its extraction and transport, refining and manufacture, through to waste management. Single-use packaging is one of the largest and fastest-growing areas of the plastic economy, but the issue is more than just single-use plastic. The very production and lifecycle of plastic is a greater threat to our planet than many realise.
What’s more, plastic pollution is also contributing to the problem. While earth’s oceans have absorbed up to 40% of all man-made carbon since the industrial era, early stage research indicates that the infiltration of microplastics into our seas is disrupting their capacity to act as a natural carbon sink.
Our plastic addiction and the global climate crisis are two sides of the same coin.
URGENT ACTION IS NEEDED
There is much talk of recycling and bioplastics, but these are often false solutions that distract from the main aim of reducing plastic production. We need to focus on reducing the production, reusing what we can and only then explore effective recycling. We need to:
- Stop our addiction to single-use, disposable plastic.
- Halt the development of more oil, gas and petrochemical infrastructure and seek to keep fossil fuel reserves in the ground and in line with climate science.
- Build zero-waste communities through reducing waste and reuse, and support circular economy initiatives.
- Force polluters to pay for their impact on the environment.
We need to turn off the tap before it’s too late. This is a climate emergency. Be part of the solution.